McDonalds Anti-Gay Attack in Orlando
Ryan Synder and his friends were on their way back to West Palm Beach from Disney, and decided to stop for a bite to eat at McDonald’s. Snyder ordered a medium coke. His little brother ordered a few chicken sandwiches. Snyder’s boyfriend, and the lesbian couple sitting upfront, ordered burgers and sodas.
The bill was $14.80.
Minutes after leaving the window, McDonald’s employee Kristy Perez was reaching into their now-parked car through the driver’s window, trying to grab the food back, yelling out LGBT-specific expletives at them all, Snyder said.
Minutes after that, Snyder, now inside of the store, turned around just in time for Perez to punch him.
This all happened a few days before Christmas 2010, and everyone got more than they bargained for. In fact, this is just one of a half dozen incidents that McDonald’s saw in the past few years regarding LGBT people getting attacked.
Perez was sentenced by the state of Florida on June 26, evading the hate crime charge and jail time. Instead she received 100 community hours and three years of probation, and will be required to attend anger management classes. The state charged her with battery and burglary.
This punishment just wasn’t enough, the 24-year-old Snyder said, who’s been pursuing Perez through civil court (for a breakdown of his lawsuit, see the sidebar).
"I had a black eye for Christmas," Snyder, who lives in West Palm Beach with his boyfriend, told SFGN. "It was very frustrating to feel like she was getting away with it. I felt that it just wasn’t right."
Here’s how it went down: It was about 11 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. Danielle Smith was driving the car, her wife Heidi sat next to her. In the back were Ryan Snyder and his boyfriend Shawn Violante. Snyder’s little brother, then 17-years-old, was also in the backseat.
At the first window, Danielle paid the man who took their order. He disappeared, without giving her change back or a receipt. After Danielle got the food from Perez at the second window, she told Perez the cashier hadn’t given her a receipt or her change back.
"That stupid faggot doesn’t know how to do his job," Perez told Smith. "He just came out of the closet."
Danielle told the woman that she, along with others in the car, were gay and took offense to that language.
Snyder said the woman then said she wanted the food back, because there was no receipt. The two went back and forth for a few moments and then Danielle decided to leave.
Perez made her way out of the restaurant and chased the car, so Danielle stopped. Perez proceeded to bang on the window, which Danielle drew down. This was when Perez lunged into the car, reaching into Heidi’s lap, where the bag of food was sitting.
"We all went into hysterics, not knowing what to do," Snyder said. Danielle found a way to push Perez out of the car and drove off, when Perez kicked the car and Danielle stopped again.
"She came to the car and tried to grab the food out of my hand. Everything was happening so fast - I just couldn’t believe it," Heidi told SFGN. "I was freaking out."
So Snyder decided he had had enough and went to speak to the manager. But as soon as he got out of the car, Perez started shouting at him, calling him ’a cocksucker,’ and the group ’faggots,’ among other things.
He ignored her and continued to the store, while Perez followed him. When Synder approached the counter he turned around to see if Perez was still behind him. She was. A moment later she punched him in the chin.
"The second hit was to the eye. I just kept trying to get away from her. I tried to block the hit and used self-defense in throwing my coke at her. I was hoping the coke would deflect everything," Snyder said, adding that Perez hit him a third time in the neck. "I kept backing up and fell into a fetal position by the trash can, where she kept hitting me. Two workers showed up and held me down, and one of her managers told her to clock out and leave."
And Perez left. She completely disappeared. No one knew where she was. Months later, when Snyder was working on suing her, she wasn’t even around to be served - which changed when she was arrested for speeding in 2011. Had she not been in a hurry, the lawsuit might have been stunted and the incident buried.
"Her conduct was extreme and outrageous beyond the bounds of decency," said one of Snyder’s lawyers, Robert Strick.
As the attack unfolded, Kathy Gayer was standing in line and waiting to order. She was visiting from Kansas, her family sitting at a nearby table. Gayer has experienced in managing franchise restaurants, and was more disturbed with the management than anyone else in the atttack.
"What bothered me is that when [Snyder] came in screaming for help, no one helped him. I didn’t think that was fair. Then those three guys came up and grabbed him, and the manager sent [Perez] home, even asking someone to escort her," Gayer said. "I was appalled that a manager would treat a customer like that, when he should be helping."
Driver Danielle Smith told SFGN that, without a doubt, Perez’s actions were a result of hate.
"She was definitely after us because of that. You could hear it in her voice. It’s just the way she was acting. I definitely feel it was a hate crime," she said. "I think that there should have been some kind of apology."
After Perez was sentenced in June, Snyder decided to take the security camera video of the attack and post it on YouTube. The video can be found at http://bit.ly/LlHz07, and has just under 10,000 hits as of press time.
"I debated whether to do it or not. I just don’t want to get picked on anymore," said Snyder, who at first kept the incident to himself mostly because it was embarrassing for him to be seen getting hit. "If I don’t say anything, it could happen again. I would just like to think that by me saying something, it’d help in the long run."
Snyder’s an active member of the LGBT community, and hopes not only that things like this don’t happen again, but that potential victims will react accordingly.
"I don’t think that violence in any way, shape or form, can help. No matter if it’s because I’m gay or we exchanged bad words, we shouldn’t have fought," Snyder said. "Whoever this happens to next should not wait after this happens to them to do something about."
The 13-page civil lawsuit, filed on May 6, 2011, claims eight. It has been docked for trial and will happen within two weeks of June 10, 2013. Snyder’s lawyers were ordered to mediate the case before May 7, 2013. As many lawsuits might settle during mediation, attorney Julia Young said that the suit may not even go to trial.
McDonald’s "owed a duty" to customers like to Snyder to hire "competent, qualified and safe employees." The lawsuit alleges that McDonald’s didn’t fulfill his duty by "hiring employees who were, and are, incompetent, unfit for employment in the food service or any industry, and dangerous."
The lawsuit alleged that McDonald’s also failed in its capacity of supervision over its employees, and should have known that employees like Perez "posed a danger to [their] customers and public-at-large." This supervisory negligence led to Snyder’s damages, including bodily injury, pain and suffering, mental anguish, humiliation, anxiety, fear, loss of enjoyment of life, and medical expenses, according to the lawsuit.
On top of poor judgment, lack of managerial skills, hostility, violent tendencies, unpredictability, and unfitness for the job, the lawsuit alleged that McDonald’s should have known of Perez’s homophobic nature.
The lawsuit alleged that Perez intended to and succeeded in attacking Snyder and, as a result, inflicted "harmful and offensive contact" with him.
Intentional infliction of emotional distress
The defendant’s actions, the lawsuit alleged, was "beyond all bounds of decency" and is "tantamount to an anti-gay hate crime."
Restraining Snyder was "unreasonable and unwarranted and without legal authority," the lawsuit alleged.
The lawsuit alleged that the defendants "intentionally and unlawfully exerted force upon, and threatened the use of force against, the plaintiff." This would create for Snyder a "reasonable fear of imminent peril and bodily injury."
Violation of Fla. Statute 775.085
The lawsuit alleged that the defendants knew that Snyder was homosexual and physically attacked, intimidated and threatened Snyder partly based on that knowledge.